Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Gender Pay Gap is Fiction

I've written about the the gender pay gap before, but a recent article in Slate did a great job of looking at the issue.  Because Slate is generally Left with regard to politics, I thought readers might be interested in their take.  You'll get plenty of Right/moderate from me.  The Slate post is "The Gender Wage Gap Lie" and I'd encourage you to read it.

Note that the author, Hanna Rosin, won't go quite as far as I do.  She qualified her analysis with, "The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them."
[The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics give] the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.
So that's problem one.  Our official statistics aren't comparing apples to apples.
The fact that men are more likely to be in unions and have their salaries protected accounts for about 4 percent of the gap. The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. 
This issue isn't the fault of employers.  If men and women tend to self select for careers that pay differently, that's simply a choice.
...why do women work fewer hours? Is this all discrimination or, as economist Claudia Goldin likes to say, also a result of “rational choices” women make about how they want to conduct their lives...you have to leave room at least for the option of choice—that women just don’t want to work the same way men do.
This is really a huge part of what this comes down to.  Gender discrimination, like racial discrimination is never okay.  That doesn't seem to be what's happening.

At the end of their lives, many men say they regret having spent too much time pursuing financial success and not enough time with their families.  It seems that as a category, women tend to be smarter in that regard.  It isn't that they're less valued by employers, it's that they're choosing to spend their time on more valuable things.  It doesn't appear that there's anything government needs to address here, and the sooner the public recognizes that, the sooner the dishonest speeches on the subject will end.

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